The cold war was a post-World War II struggle between the United States and its allies and the group of nations led by the Soviet Union. Direct military conflict did not occur between the two superpowers, but intense economic and diplomatic struggles erupted. Different interests led to mutual suspicion and hostility in a rising philosophy. The United States played a major role in the ending of the cold war. It has been said that President Ronald Reagan ended the cold war with his strategic defense policies. In the year1949, Germany was divided by the victors of World War II and hey occupied different zones.
The western regions united to form a Federal republic and the Soviet eastern region became communist East Germany. The cold war had begun. Berlin, the former capital of Germany was divided into East Berlin and West Berlin but was located deep inside the soviet controlled zone. 1 Then, in 1961, the Soviet government built a wall which separated the two halves of the city. It was not until the 1980s that cold war tensions eased through the glasnost (openness to public debate) polices of soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
Finally, in November 1989, the wall crumbled under the hands of the Germans and the cold war ended. 2 The downfall of the cold war started when Ronald Reagan came into office in 1981. Reagan had two main priorities. He wanted to cut taxes and increase defense spending. He felt that the United States of America should take a confrontational approach towards Russia. 3 Mikhail Gorbachev was the leader of Russia in 1985. He wanted to improve the Russian economy. He also wanted to improve relations with the United States.
He used his glasnost (openness to public debate) policy and perestroika restructuring) to help the Russian economy. 4 Both leaders wanted a “margin of safety”. Reagan took a tough stand against Russia and it’s allies. The soviets could clearly see that when Reagan said he wanted a “margin of safety”, he meant that the United States should be superior to Russia. Moscow would not let this happen. They wanted equality. 5 Reagan also believed that military power and respect for America abroad were inseparable from economic strength.
However, Reagan’s defense policy resulted in the doubling of the debt of the United States. He used the money for ew strategic programs and for expensive conventional programs such as expanding the navy from four hundred to six hundred ships. Reagan also received increases for the CIA and other intelligence agencies so they could aid anti-Russian forces in Afghanistan and other Third-World countries. 6 Reagan’s administration did not have strong or consistent policies towards Russia. It was divided between people who favored careful negotiations and people who strongly opposed efforts to deal with “the enemy.
The negotiators were centered in the State department. It included George Schultz, Richard Burt, and Secretary of State Alexander Haig. The other side included Caspar Weinberger, Richard Perle and Senator Henry Jackson. 7 Soviets became frightened by the United States’ policies. They were going to negotiate with Reagan at first but because of military buildup, lack of interest in arms control, Soviets were afraid Reagan would attack the nation. Soviets kept the KGB (Russia’s version of the Federal Bureau of Investigation) on alerted from 1981 to 1983 just in case.
A Russian military plane had shot down a South Korean civilian airliner hat was flying over Soviet territory. The plane was traveling from Anchorage, Alaska to Seoul Korea. Sixty-one Americans were killed on the flight. When the United States heard about this; Reagan was furious. He denounced that the “Korean airline massacre” was a “crime against humanity” for which “there was absolutely no justification legal or moral… ” 9 Soviets said that they thought it was a spy plane and when they inquired who it was, they received no answer. That is why they shot it down.
This crisis gave more tension to the cold war situation. 10 On September 23, 1985, Andropov, the Soviet leader at the time, issued “one of the most strong anti-American statements since the Stalin Era”. 12 He accused the United States of pursuing a militarist course that is designed to achieve “dominant positions in the world without reckoning with the interests of the other states and peoples”. 11 Soviet leaders thought that the United States’ response to the airliner incident combined with the continuing lack of progress on arms control, was proof that they should not improve relations with the United States.
That December, they withdrew from the arms control negotiations in Geneva. For this reason negotiations that would end the cold war were halted. 12 Reagan proposed a program called “Strategic Defense Initiative (Also known as “Star Wars”). ” The program was where an experimental rocket was launched off a remote island and intercepted an incoming ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) warhead that was about one hundred miles above earth. This was a demonstration of the Pentagon’s ability to solve the problems of ballistic-missile defense. 13